December 24, 2019

The 4-Gift Rule

Posted in: Debt-Free Living

Camryn will be getting four gifts from us for Christmas – all within our $50 budget for her.  Maybe it’s because we’re cheap.  Maybe it’s because we’re debt-free and we don’t want to get back in debt because of pressure from other people.  It could be that we value experiences over things.  Or possibly because I learned a lot from my parents when it comes to Christmas gifts.  Perhaps it’s a little of everything.

Some of you are probably shaking your head that we are ONLY getting her 4 gifts or that we are ONLY spending $50.  You would really cringe to know that we only spent $36 total on her.  We actually considered not buying anything for her first Christmas, but we found some great deals on things we planned to buy for her anyway.

I know you’ve seen the 4-gift rule floating around.  Only buy four gifts for your kids – something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.  Years ago, when we first saw that idea, Weston and I decided we wanted to implement it with our future children.

Here’s what Camryn is getting from us this year:

1. Blocks to play and learn (want)

2. A sound machine that plugs into the wall (need)

3. A dress that we found on clearance at Target (wear)

4. A new book (read)

Decades ago, my parents learned a hard lesson when it was just me and my older brother.  The first couple of years, they bought us dozens of gifts.  Then one Christmas, they had a heartbreaking realization.  They looked around the living room that was covered in recently-opened Christmas gifts.  Wrapping paper, boxes, and an overabundance of things filled the room.  They realized that they had forgotten what Christmas was all about.  From that moment on, my parents decided they would not spend more than $50 on each child for Christmas.

I can’t tell you what gifts my parents got me for Christmas every year, but I can tell you that my mom made beignets and my dad read the Bible to us every Christmas.  I can tell you that I never felt like I didn’t have enough to open on Christmas morning.  Our family spent the day together.  We ate good food, played games, and drove around to look at Christmas lights.  We shared popcorn at the movie theater every Christmas day.  Those are the memories I have of Christmas; not the gifts.

Why am I sharing all of this?  Because I have seen so many posts in Facebook groups from parents asking for gift ideas for their kids.  They post a photo with a dozen gifts and say they feel like they don’t have enough to give their children.  I hear parents talk about how “Christmas gets more expensive every year.”  It doesn’t have to get more expensive!  Your kids don’t NEED the latest iPhone or a dozen gifts to open.

If you’re debt-free and you have money set aside to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on Christmas gifts, go for it!  If gift-giving is your love language and you have the means to splurge, do it.  Unfortunately, this is not the case for most households.  Close to 80 percent of American households live paycheck to paycheck.  Worse than that, 40 percent of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency, yet they can spend an average of $1,500 on Christmas gifts.

To us, it’s more important to provide a stable, debt-free household for Camryn than to give her 20 toys that she will play with a few times and will clutter up our house for the rest of the year.  It’s also important to us that Camryn knows Christmas is not about the gifts.  Since more is caught than taught, we have to lead by example.  We can’t tell her that Christmas isn’t about gifts and overwhelm her with presents on Christmas day.

What do you think about the 4-gift rule?  Tell me in the comments!

Come back in two weeks to read about how we spent ZERO dollars for 10 Dirty Santa gifts this year!

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